Count-Down to Surgery

My surgery is scheduled for one week from today! Administratively, it’s been a bad 10 days, since my personal “patient advocate nurse” at Humana has been unreachable. It’s taken numerous phone calls to sort-out how the Mayo Clinic should get their Authorizations submitted to Humana and approved. It looks like I solved that yesterday: They can deal directly with Humana without having to go through my Primary Care Provider.

The expected technique to be used for my Esophajectomy: The Ivor Lewis technique. Click the link for some good graphics explaining that approach. UC Health had proposed a different approach, and planned to use two surgeons. At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Mark Allen will be the only surgeon; he expects the operation to take about six hours, vs. the 10-hour procedure UC Health wanted to use. After the operation, I’ll be in Intensive Care for 2-3 days, and will likely be hospitalized 8-10 days total.

Pilots for Christ: I am again set up for a free flight with these folks. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this time!

Quality Time with Natalie: Natalie has been been staying with us for about three weeks now. It’s taken some time, but she’s now comfortably installed in our spare bedroom, and has set up a work area in the attic. I am acting as Copy Editor for the books she is writing about her four months in St. Thomas. Most of the creative writing is done, but its grueling work getting from raw drafts to finished copy!

My younger brother Bob from France is also here for a week: He arrived late-afternoon Monday, and is staying in an Airbnb about a mile away. It’s walkable, with Mt. Lookout Square about half-way in-between. He and Natalie spent yesterday afternoon at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Here is a photo from my older brother Bill’s wedding last fall:

Wedding Party

Back Row, L-to-R: Natalie, me, Jen, Bob & Elizabeth (Bill’s daughter); Front: Jane and Bill

I finally bought myself a decent Bass Amplifier: I was at Stereo Advantage yesterday getting a turntable repaired. I asked if he had a decent Bass Amp for sale, and he said he had a great old Peavy. For $100, I traded-in my crappy 20-watt Ibanez practice amp for this Minx 110 model:

Peavy Minx™ 110

 

It’s Time to Start Playing Bass Guitar Again!

I haven’t played my bass guitar since I was diagnosed. It’s time I got back to it!

I used to have a 5-string solid-body bass when I played in a casual fun band in the late ’90s in Naperville, Illinois. We only played-out twice, at pool parties at my neighborhood pool. It was heavy! I gave up the idea of playing in a band about 10 years ago, so I sold the Ibanez bass.

On a visit to see my son Brian in the Ballard area of Seattle about five years ago, I stopped at a guitar shop and saw the first acoustic bass I’d ever seen. I didn’t realize that anyone made acoustic basses. The seed was planted! In late 2014, I went shopping for an acoustic bass as a birthday present to myself. I found this beauty on Craig’s List, and got it for a good price:

Dean Bass Guitar

My Dean Exotica Quilted Ash Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar

It has dual pick-ups: The usual crappy guitar plug, plus a low-impedance jack! I like a clean sound, and the low-impedance jack is perfect for that. 

I also bought an inexpensive Samson PA System from Radio Shack, so I’m go to go!

I’ve had a MIDI System since 1986, including a Roland Sound Canvas SC-88VL synthesizer. I’ve also owned PowerTracks Pro Audio MIDI software (from PG Music) for more than 20 years.

I also collected thousands of MIDI files over the years, most of them with lyrics, which turns my computer into a Karaoke machine! 

MIDI files are simple text files that capture the “score” of each track of a multi-track musical performance (i.e. the list of notes played, and when to play them).

So what? So, I can play along with my MIDI band any time I want to. I can display the score of the bass part (it highlights each note when it’s time to play it). I can change the tempo and the key quickly and easily. Plus, PowerTracks will reverse-engineer the song to figure out what the chords are!

Here’s a sample screen-shot:

PowerTracks Screen Shot

The Bass score for Wonderful Tonight, with lyrics! PowerTracks Pro Audio!

So, it’s time to have some fun again!

The Mayo Clinic Wins Hands-Down!

Unfortunately, the weather was not compatible with my plan to use PilotsforChrist.org to fly Jen and me to Rochester in a single-engine plane. We had to stand-down from that plan on Saturday night. My older brother Bill offered to pay for commercial flights instead. Thanks, Bro!

Unfortunately, our trip to Rochester Sunday evening ended-up taking 11 hours due to bad weather; we did not arrive at our airbnb until 2 AM! The flight back was no better, due to mechanical problems with the plane out of Rochester; we didn’t get back home until 1 AM!

In between: Wow! We spent two days at the Mayo Clinic – what an operation! What a well-organized and efficient hospital system! They perform three times as many Esophagectomies per year as UC Healthin fact, the most in the country! One surgeon can do the entire operation himself in only six hours. They have extensive experience resolving every type of complication imaginable.

So: I’m scheduled to have Dr. Mark Allen perform my surgery at the Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus on May 24th!

Also: There is an extensive pedestrian “Subway” below the whole campus; you can get anywhere you need to without going outside. But hold onto your wallet: There are scores or world-class shops in the Subway, selling fabulous objets d’art from around the globe!

The Publican

Dinner at The Publican at O’Hare Airport on our trip home.

The J-Tube Feedings have begun!

It took three days to get a J-Tube surgically installed. It took another seven days of administrative gobbledygook to get the feedings approved, orders entered, supplies delivered, and nurse scheduled. Last night I got hooked-up for the first time:

Doug 1st J-Tube Feeding

FEED ME!

I need to be hooked-up to this thing 20 hours per day. I need to find a better way of routing the tube! The food gets fed directly into the small intestine.

Health Update: We are still finalizing flight arrangements to/from the Mayo Clinic on Monday. It appears that all the pieces are falling into place for that to happen! Hurrah for PilotsforChrist.org! At this point, I’m leaning heavily towards getting the surgery done at the Mayo Clinic, even though there will be substantial non-covered costs for travel and living expenses. We are researching how to keep those costs to a minimum.

Scans all good; Surgery May 18th?

Apparently, my idea of “wait and see” turns out to be more like “wait and die soon”: The cancer will likely have metasticised to Stage IV before we detect anything!

Jen and I met with the UC Health surgeons and support team members today. The CT and PET scans both looked great. They have decided to change to the Trans-Hiatal esophagectomy approach: This will require one Mid-Line Abdominal Incision and one Neck Incision. Surgery at UC Health is scheduled for May 18th – assuming we “hold the Mayo”.

We are also flying to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN on Monday, May 1st for a second opinion. We will be flying in a single-engine private plane from the Clermont County Airport. The exact itinerary is TBD based on expected weather conditions. We will be flying free of charge courtesy of pilotsforchrist.org! We will of course make a substantial donation to support their program!

April 26th is also Brian’s 38th birthday! Here’s how he described it in an email to family:

Angela and are watching Stanley Cup hockey at the local watering hole here in Roslyn after a long day of working on the new house.  Already we know a couple locals who frequent the place. I was asked if I wanted a birthday beer and this was what was delivered:

Brian Birthday Beer

Down the Hatch!

I’m not sure how I’ll get through it before it gets warm.  Anyhow, we spent much of the day investigating how to repair the siding. It turns-out that old growth cedar planks in the particular shape we are looking at have not been available for 50+ years.  When I took a sample in to the lumber store I was met with some skepticism.  My original thought has been to fake it with plywood or something more available, and then caulk and paint to seal it up and have a uniform look.   But as we got more of the asbestos tile removed, the old company miners’ shack that this house was started to emerge – it’s kind of heartbreaking to think of painting over it.  However, we need to seal it up because it’s drafty!

Brian with Tyvek.JPG

Angela removing aluminum siding and Tyvek!

Most of the original panel is in great shape; it has the dark color typical of the treatment given to old wooden houses in this area.  It’s a look that really defines Roslyn, and very difficult to duplicate with materials available today.  We’ve started to investigate ways to restore the original look, possibly by taking panels from the eaves for the repairs we’ll need and then installing cedar shakes over plywood up there.

Angela on back porch

Angela (on porch) celebrates completion of the back wall!

In the meantime, we took my buddy’s truck into Ellensburg and got some fruit trees to populate our otherwise sparse yard.   Hopefully, in a few years we’ll have apricots and apples!  That’s my update for now, we’re pretty stoked!

 

Life of Natalie & St. Rick: April 23rd, 2017

After an extended hiatus, it’s back to Natalie! Here she is enjoying her last afternoon (at least for now) in St. Thomas:

Last Day on St Thomas

Paddle tennis, anyone?

I’ve been keeping a secret for a while now; here it is: Rick asked Natalie to marry him, and Natalie accepted! Tonight they are celebrating their last romantic night together for a while, having dinner at my expense!

The First Course

The First Course at the Smoking Rooster BBQ!

Natalie at Dinner Apr 23rd

Natalie bought 15 raffle tickets for “mini” Fender Strats!

Natalie and Rick

The newly-engaged Happy Couple!

Natalie is flying to Chicago tomorrow, where she will spend the night in the room she sub-lets from her high-school friend Dan! Tuesday morning, her college friend Brynne will pick her up and drive her to Cincinnati. We expect that Dan will also come along for the (5-hour) ride.

Dan having a drink

Dan having one too many!

Brynne with Newborn baby

Brynne with her newborn: Harriet (Hattie) Lin Hovde: born 2/11/17; 7 lbs., 2 oz.

Health Update: The good news is that I had a J-Type feeding tube surgically installed on Friday. Here I am enjoying the proceedings:

Doug ready for J Tube

Lights Out, please!

The bad news is that I’ve not yet received any “orders” to be fed anything! Hopefully, I’ll start receiving large quantities of real nutrition tomorrow, and will start putting back on some of the 20 pounds I’ve lost!

Next week: CT scan Monday, PET Scan Tuesday, meet with UC Health doctors Wednesday!